Medical practice has seen a significant improvement worldwide due to the growing scientific research that is being conducted in recent times. In some areas, electronic library systems offers some convenience in achieving some goals of improving the knowledge and skills of students in medical practice. In a previous study by Ruegelman et al (1983), on assessing the skills, attitude and behaviour of medical students regarding literature reading, it was found that the students had less confidence and willingness to read medical literature. This paper highlighted the need for training in literature reading skills with emphasis on pre-evaluation and post evaluation of skills, attitude and behaviour . It has been observed in SSA that this trend of exposing students to medical literature early in their training is not the practice. A typical case study is that of the KNUST School of medical sciences where students are less exposed to current medical literature in their early career development. This program therefore aim to raise a generation of clinicians with the attitude to read scientific publications and to develop the desire to conduct health systems research in various disciplines among medical students in KNUST, Kumasi-Ghana.
The need for introducing academic literature reading goes beyond imaginations. Currently, the main sources of information for students in universities had been text books which mostly are expensive, and increasingly becomes outdated. The challenge therefore is that the fast changes that is being observed in the area of medical practice such as change in pharmacokinetics and the trends of diseases are not commensurate with the textbooks that are being kept in the shelves of our libraries. This challenge of applying growing medical knowledge to specific patients’ issues has created information gap between information needs and delivery .
There are few times when attention/focus by most students in our part of the world is diverted to the internet as a source to access research publications. In often times, it is done when students are unable to complete their assignments with available textbooks and or when they are required to work on their final project works. As bemoaned by Tenopir (2010), undergraduate students often do not use scholarly articles unless specifically required for an assignment. In any of these instances the main goal is just to complete an assignment and not to understand the genesis of the paper, the methodologies used, the theme and other details that are of academic and professional relevance.
The benefits of this initiative to the studentship is immense. The solution for bridging the knowledge gap requires that students and persons in academic and healthcare institutions continuously update their knowledge through reading publications in peer reviewed journals. It is known from previous studies that financial constraints can be a challenge as some of these journals are costly making it less accessible. However, there are millions of research publications that can be accessed freely. The difficulties really are that most students are not familiar with the various areas or sites to assess them. In KNUST, medical students are later introduced to research in 5th year and are just taken as an academic exercise where the focus is just to pass and move on to the next step of their studies.
As noted from previous studies, the use of academic information have shown that undergraduate students often use the sources that are most convenient to them. To this extent, students will use the modern sources available to them to execute this project.
This novelty that seeks to adopt convenient means by ensuring that students undergoing medical training are urged to read articles in various disciplines in the medical field before leaving school will altematively broaden their horizon. In the era of increasing use of mobile technologies among students and the availability of internet services[6,7], this will afford effective use of time by these students who are required to maintain high sense of professionalism and quality.
This is also beneficial in the sense that by the time students are through with the school each person is expected to have read about 40 journals (assuming 4 journals are selected and read each semester). The exercise which is aimed ensuring that students read a collection of research articles in their respective academic level at each time point will be relevant for their training. This is also relevant in the sense that even those students who are not considering research careers may nevertheless develop skills that will be transferable to clinical practice. In summary, medical students being made to read quality research journals in various disciplines may help instill a culture of evidence-based medicine (EBM) in clinical medicine. This could potentially motivate students who will develop the interest in pursuing research to consider constructing and publishing research articles even before they are through with their medical practice. As noted by Lopatto (2007), publishing manuscripts during the early years of medical education is correlated with more engagement in future research experiences .
The academic reading program is open to undergraduate students in medicine at the SMS. Students will be required to read the approved journal within a designated time within the academic year that will be acceptable to the academic board of studies. Two broad areas are being proposed; pre-clinical and clinical years. Pre-clinical year students will be required to read journals relating to physiology, biochemistry, anatomy, microbiology and behavioural science. Clinical students will be required to read articles on medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology, child health, ENT, surgery, anaesthesia and radiology.
The strategic plan to execute this program is to develop an online application (https://www.vclass.knust.edu.gh.com) that will be synchronised with the website of the SMS to support them access and read specific literature in the subject field of study for the preceding year.
To ensure that all students participate in this exercise, access to the site will be granted using the admission numbers (pin). Students will be required to undertake the exercise prior to the reopening of preceding term (most appropriately on vacations). Studies have reported that access to computers and internet at both homes and in school are high. when access is granted the student, the student can now gain access into the site to read his/her approved article(s) for the semester.
After reading the articles, students will be required to complete a non-scoring evaluation questions to check whether students understand and appreciate what is has been read. The questions will include but not limited to: Name of lead author, journal name, year of publication, the summary (using not more than 100 words , students will be required to summarise the paper in their own words) as well as not more than 200 words reflect on learning and exposure obtained from reading those articles
The SMS and the KNUST academic board will monitor the academic and research development and could lead to the potential scale up to other faculties in the university.
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